It's been three months since I've shaken myself a martini or poured myself a glass of wine. That's 89 days, if you're counting days - which I stopped counting after month one…that is, until just now. I stopped counting the days because it was depressing me. Now, I don't mean any disrespect to people who need to count days or go to AA meetings, but I quickly discovered that counting days just wasn't for me. It sort of felt like I was cataloging my deprivation and it just didn't feel good or right for me. It felt like I was just slogging along and ticking off the days on my wall calendar, like I was a prisoner locked up in a jail cell of my own creation (this metaphor was not lost on me). This act of counting days felt like it pegged me as an alcoholic, which I just don't think I am. I'm on a break from alcohol and I'm not sure how long this experiment is going to last.
What I know for sure is that I'm a woman who grew up in a house with parents who didn't drink. I got married young, went to church where it was frowned upon to drink alcohol and then I got divorced. I started really drinking at the ripe old age of 27 and had no model for responsible drinking. I thought adults drink and I'm an adult so I can drink as much as I want, whenever I want to. I was carefree and fun. I got remarried, bought a wine bar and drank wine for a living. When the wine bar sold seven years ago, I was a little lost and didn't quite know what to do with myself. I developed new hobbies and hosted many dinner parties. Being social and pouring drinks for people didn't leave my system and I still wanted to be the life of the party. Over the years, this just got old and after a dinner party I threw for a friend in January I knew it was time to change my life in a big way.
Since I'm the master of my own universe, I decided to stop the practice of counting days and, instead, decided I would focus on the monthly milestones and treat myself on the third day of each month. The third of the month would be an acknowledgment of how far I've come and celebrate the positive new habits I am forming.
At this point in time, I'm not craving wine or cocktails (at all) and that's been a huge revelation. I've removed myself from certain social situations during these past three months to aid in creating a more solid foundation for myself, but overall I'm just not feeling like I need a pretty cocktail in my hand at the beginning (or end) of the evening. I've also made a conscious decision to not host dinner parties in our home during this time of reflection. I'm not sure when I'll resume, but taking it off the table has freed me up to focus on my family and I like how that's felt. In taking this self-imposed break from alcohol, it's allowed me time to really think about why I chose to escape this way. Some of those days were emotionally hard to get through and it's still very much a work in progress. I'm not sure how much longer I will abstain from drinking, but I have no plans of going back as of right now. I like how I'm feeling too much to go back to how I was feeling before I stopped drinking.
Since I appreciate reading from other bloggers who have shared similar journeys, I'm going to share my personal experience with abstaining from alcohol over the last three months and what that looks like over here in a few different areas of focus.
Let's start here. While on this road to a clear mind & body, I also went wheat-free about 10 weeks ago. I think the combination of eliminating alcohol and wheat from my daily routine has done huge favors for my face. When I would stay up late watching DVDs and sipping a bottomless Manhattan, I went to bed without washing my face. I would wake up parched, with a mild hangover. Sounds awesome, right? My skin was ruddy looking and dry. I'm sure I was dehydrated and I know it showed.
I treated myself to a full facial at a small local spa in celebration of Month One without alcohol and it was totally the right call. Taking care of myself in ways that were both positive and good for me was a new way of indulging and that wasn't lost on me. But this indulgence had positive, visible, lasting effects. I purchased good quality moisturizer and sunscreen and walked out of the salon door with a little skip in my step. It felt fantastic to address my needs in such a nurturing way. I took care of myself in a way that had nothing to do with alcohol and I have to say it felt really good. Different, but good. I treated myself to another mini-facial for Month Two and loved how this simple act changed the way I literally saw myself in the mirror.
Cutting out my late afternoon adult beverages (as well as wheat) from my diet created insane cravings for sweets around 4 o'clock every single day. At first, I would make myself a cup of tea and eat a little (okay, a lot of) chocolate. After work lately, I find that I like to drive myself to 31 Flavors and indulge in one scoop of each of my childhood favorites - peanut butter & chocolate and pralines & cream - and enjoy them while sitting on a bench, all by myself, before I pick my son up from school. My sugar craving is immediately satisfied, as well as my childhood nostalgia-fix. Two birds killed with one cone, as it were.
I've never been a person who liked to deprive herself of anything. I want what I want and never understood fad diets. Eliminating wheat felt like I was joining the masses on a gluten-free trend and I worried it was just going to make me a high-maintenance diner. I've lost 8 pounds over the past three months and feel so much better, digestively speaking (which I actually don't like to speak about - ever). So, I'll leave it at that. My skin is clearer and less congested, too. I'm indulging my sweet tooth and trying hard not to deprive myself of sweets. Because, let's be honest, I can only give up so much without going off the deep end.
This has been the most significant, palpable change to date. I can finally sleep through the night! I can't tell you when the last stretch of time was that I slept through an entire night while I was drinking. I would wake nightly between 2 - 3 a.m. and get up and write or scroll through the internets until the sun would rise. I thought this was a side effect of perimenopause and just the way it was going to be. Boy was I wrong. So very, very wrong. Every single day would start off with me completely exhausted, irritable and foggy. Well, no more. I've had a total of three sleep-interrupted nights since I stopped drinking and those were on days that I had a lot on my mind to work out. Otherwise, I've found that I go to bed earlier and sleep solidly until around 6:00 a.m. I had no idea how much I was messing with my sleep cycles by drinking alcohol at night.
An interesting by-product of living life without alcohol has been that I have a boatload of patience. For myself. For my husband. For my kiddo. For others. For real life stuff - taxes, bills, work. I'm not sure how to write about this other than to say that I feel really present and calm in my daily routine. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have patience for rude or mean-spirited people or inane conversations - those still annoy me, but I find that I'm not engaging with or putting myself in those scenarios as often as I once did. Working with the public for so many years really altered my boundaries with people. I'm working hard to redefine those lines.
This feels like a taboo topic, but I will share that my relationship with my spouse has been strained over the years due, in part, to my overindulging in wine and cocktails. I was once a good-time-girl that loved to raise a full glass to toast even the smallest of things. For example, it's Wednesday? Let's call it Rosé Wednesday and invite my girlfriends over every Wednesday for, you guessed it, Rosé!; I'd be the last one to leave a party; and I rarely declined a social invitation. All of that left my spouse holding the responsible card in our relationship - a job he excelled at and has dutifully held his entire life. It's part of the reason I fell in love with him. I don't want to talk about this too much, but I will say I'm working hard to repair all of the damage I've done over time and be a better partner to this solid guy that I married over 13 years ago. He deserves that.
I just asked him what's the biggest change he's noticed in me over the past three months. His succinct and observant response was, "you're a lot less reactive." Bingo. I'm less reactive, because I'm more rested and present. I'm exercising a few days a week and working out my stress. I'm in a good place and it feels really good to be seen by him in this way after all these years. Overall, I'd say I'm here and see things more clearly as it relates to my family and my life in general.
Self-worth + Self-improvement
Because of all of the positive changes I've been making, I'm feeling a swell of self-worth. I've been inspired to go back to college and major in art (registration for classes starts next week!), as well as increase my physical activities by going on nature hikes, attending torturous barre workouts and sweat-inducing Zumba classes. I've lost weight, both literally and figuratively.
I treated myself to a private letterpress printing workshop on Friday as my Month Three treat. I also purchased a Moleskine journal filled with watercolor paper AND a gluten-free loaf of bread this week from a local bakery. Yes, all treats and all for me. I totally deserve them.
I've been in my head a lot over the last three months and that's been mostly good. I've been sorting through old grievances and finding healthier ways to deal with the sadnesses that had taken root in me. I've been purging material possessions (which always makes me giddy) and archiving the past through the creation of tangible photo books and converting old home movies from my childhood into DVDs. I'm super motivated right now and enjoying the ride. I'm getting shit done around here - cleaning my proverbial house, as well as my literal one.
I heard a great line this week while I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast, wherein she shared the most profound thought about happiness I had ever heard.
Happiness is achieved in an atmosphere of growth.
Let that sink in. I had to pull over and write it down. Happiness is achieved in an atmosphere of growth. All I could think was yeah - yeah, that's it. That's what I'm doing. I'm growing in so many ways and, in turn, I'm finding my bliss.
I'm so happy and healthy right now, friends. I hope you are, too.